What does it mean for you to finish well as a leader? As the Cat said to Alice in Wonderland– if you don’t know where you are going, then any road will take you there – is still true.

I was raised in a city that said, “the city that moto-vates Canada.” We see it on billboards, on posters, on websites or even in leadership promoting their community, workplace culture.

There’s always been lots of talk about brand, whether it is the logo on the vehicle, an owner’s mark on the animal or a key theme statement that brings a message to the top-of-mind awareness (TOMA).

Yet when it comes to leadership how quickly do we apply this theme of our own brand?

There are two core elements in this discussion though, one is brand, the other is reputation.

Reputation is our brand known by other people.

Many organizations and leaders spend huge amounts of energy promoting their ‘brand’. The theme of creating the buy-in to hiring the best people, retaining the right ones, and creating the workplace where people want to work. Ironically people can spend a lot of money and time talking a good game, doing up the right brochures and social media elements to shape the brand messaging so you look like an “employer of choice”. Ironically it is reputation that determines our brand because that is what people think it is.

Where this becomes most visible is the hiring. The response to “why would someone want to work at this workplace?” has dramatically shifted over the years, and Covid has escalated this transformation. The reason people leave their workplaces, or stay, has shifted.

When it comes to leadership there is an awesome transformation that is happening. It boils down to whether leadership is creating the reputation and brand of being trustable, respectable, and followable [even if they may not always be likeable]? This is the challenge happening around principles like performance management, accountability, rules, laws, and so forth.

Isn’t one of the things that so many people desire is the sense of freedom or liberty? Wasn’t this part of the blowback of the pandemic rules, where ‘liberty’ was being taken away or restricted?

The reality is that laws don’t make us better people. They simply do not motivate or encourage humans.

Just to illustrate this, think about that intersection in your community that generates so much static. People don’t stop at a stop sign, rolling stops, yet are they motivated to stop buy the laws and rules? Ironically, people do not have a defense when the law is broken and get found out. People even get angry when they are caught.

Yet without rules, accountability, and certain practises we would have bedlam. Would you want to drive on a highway where there are no rules?

It is so easy for leadership to get caught thinking it is about accountability, seniority, or various other checkmark types of items; position, title, education, things one can HAVE. Yet when it comes to reputation, the brand in other’s peoples’ minds, it’s about influence, character, trustability, respectability and influence [which reflects an I AM]. Proof? Think about that person in your life, maybe not the right title, education, or worldly visibility, but his or her wisdom means we listen when they share.

Leading through critical moments means leadership must ensure the brand and reputation align. They may not be perfectly the same, but the influence you or I have is determined by how others perceive us (not what we tell ourselves). These crucial moments work like a tea bag in hot water, what’s inside always leaks out.

How do you want people to describe you non-physically?

Getting caught between a rock and a hard place with competing and changing demands, who cares for leadership! How does the leader care for themselves? Learning to thrive when so many things tend towards survive.

What does it mean for you to finish well as a leader? As a person but also in leadership.

Focussing on what you can do to thrive, not merely survive, or settle for just being resilient.

Attributed to Lao Tzu, Margaret Thatcher and many others:

Watch our thoughts (faith/belief); Our thoughts become our words;

Watch our words; Our words become our actions;

Watch our actions; Our actions become our habits;

Watch our habits; Our habits become our character;

Watch our character; Our character becomes our destiny.

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